June 10, Colombo: President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that it is the aim of the Government to maximize the contribution of tourism in order to achieve the development goals of the country.
Sri Lanka’s unique Culinary Art has attracted tourists from all over the world and maximum Government support will be extended to its promotion, the President mentioned.
The President made this statement while declaring open the Culinary Art Food Expo (CAFÉ) 2023 yesterday (09) at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) premises in Colombo.
The Chefs Guild of Lanka organizes the Culinary Art and Food Exhibition, which showcases the talent of culinary artists from all over Sri Lanka.
This year’s exhibition consists of 88 product and service booths and the President also joined in observing the booths.
The President was also engaged in a cordial conversation with the chefs who participated in the exhibition, also inquired about the issues they were facing.
The President also said that many new programs will be implemented for the advancement of the field, including the establishment of a Culinary Art school and the introduction of a system for ranking chefs.
Further speaking President Ranil Wickremesinghe said;
First of all, I must thank you for inviting me to this exhibition. And what you have displayed here fits in with the growth policy of the Government. The growth policy of the Government includes tourism to double and in first stage the numbers to go up to 5 million. Secondly, increase their revenue per tourist, which means we have to now go to the high end tourists.
Some are worried whether it is a difficult jump to make. I don’t think you have any option. We have a large number of human resources leaving the country because it is far more attractive elsewhere. We have at least got to match Maldives in the remuneration. Otherwise you can’t run a tourist industry.
That can only be done if we are prepared to increase the rate thereby. But to do that we must give a good service. There are many aspects; But remember, one that is common to all is cuisine. The tourists are coming here because they are interested in cuisine.
As far as the suppliers are concerned, we would like you to remain in a high standard and even go have a higher standard, be able to make a mark that somehow you can even export some of your products to other countries.
We have to ensure that we have a sufficient number of tests in this country as the industry expands. Unfortunately, at the moment we haven’t. We have no means of satisfying the demand. So the Government will certainly help different hotels and associations to expand the number. Don’t expect the Government to do it. We don’t. We can’t cater to that market that is required. So that has to be done by the non-Government sector and we are certainly willing to help.
We will also help by starting one school, specifically for cuisine and culinary work. So that’s what we can do. I hope that the others will take up. There has been a demand in the South. I think we can have one in Nuwara Eliya, Bandarawela, Ella and Dambulla. We can help ensure you to get chefs from abroad who also have the experience to ensure that their knowledge and the experience is passed onto the younger members of this profession.
Secondly, I think we should have some system of grading our chefs. So why don’t we have international standards and give a few stars? I think when the new tourist policy is announced it is a matter that you will have to discuss with the Ministry of Tourism.
I would like to see some of the private entrepreneurs coming forward. You can’t develop the tourist industry without developing the human resources.
It is useless giving tax incentives for hotels if they haven’t got the manpower for the kitchens. So the Government is willing to help and to work together with, most probably in the next two months, announce our new policies and you will be surprised at what changes we are going to make. And similarly your association and others involved in the tourist trade will get together I presume, to help us go forward.
Remember, we have a good future and we do so by developing the young talent we have. All those people here should one day become good chefs and I hope work in Sri Lanka. But we have to ensure the conditions here are conducive to them for staying in the country.
Chef Gerard Mendis, Chairman, Chefs Guild of Lanka
First of all, let me welcome all of you for one of the most challenging events; ‘CAFE 2023’ that we will stage. When I say challenging since 2019, we were not able to stage the event due to the COVID and many issues that we faced.
However, this year we took a bold decision. In fact, we took a chance wondering whether we would have the response that we normally have had in the past. However, the response has been great for this event considering the situation that the country has been in. And believe me; I had my doubts as well because the tourism sector was the hardest hit. And I will say I agree 100% that we have come from it much faster than we ever thought we would.
And we have to thank the President solely and its supportive government that made it happen. There were many businesses that had to close down, but you can see many of them also opening. Now, our main objective in the scale of Lanka is to fly the image of our chefs’ sky high. And secondly, we have a commitment to train and develop as Sri Lankans in the industry.
Chef Thomas Gugler, President, World Association of Chefs Societies, Shiran Peiris, Managing Director, Asriel Marketing (Pvt) Ltd, Duminda Kotalawala, General Manager, C W MACKIE PLC, Anuruddha Aluvihara, Country Head, Upfield Lanka Sales (Pvt) Ltd, David Ablet, Country Head, S4IG, Akmal Wickremaratne, Director, Pelwatte Dairy Industries Ltd. also attended the event.